How will Lampard address it?
Four games into the Premier League season and Chelsea have already conceded nine times, at an average of over two goals per game, second only to Norwich City. This, quite frankly, is inexcusable for a club like ours who are used to having such a solid defensive foundation.
This is really poor.
However there doesn’t appear to be an easy change that should be made that would easily transform our defence and there are multiple different reasons why our defence has been shockingly poor so far this campaign.
A new season and we still have the same, major worries with set-piece defending. And let’s be honest, under Frank Lampard last season, Derby County were also vulnerable at set-pieces. So, why are so weak from set pieces?
Firstly, we are generally a short team. The centre backs are tall enough but the midfield (without Ruben Loftus-Cheek), is very short, the fullbacks short and even Kepa himself between the goalposts isn’t tall.
This obviously gives us a disadvantage at set pieces from the get go but hopefully the re-introduction of the mentioned Loftus-Cheek, who’s proven to be an aerial presence, as well as Reece James coming into the picture should help us to overcome this issue. There are also questions over the zonal marking system. Marking zonally gives us a lot of issues from set pieces because seemingly a lot of players aren’t able to carry it out effectively. By this, the players don’t ever seem to know who they should be watching and which run to track and when to go for ball, etc.
I don’t know whether this is because the players are incapable of carrying out a good enough system or if the players are good enough but the system isn’t working… but personally we should just scrap the zonal marking and return to a much more simple man-for-man system in the box.
WEAKNESS IN THE TRANSITION
Another alarming issue we’ve seen this season from the Blues is that we have looked in a lot of danger as soon as we lose the ball high up the pitch or in the midfield, and this is for two main reasons.
Firstly, the lack of screening for the back four. Lampard wants his midfield to play with freedom and be fluid, which has allowed Jorginho to roam forward more and offer more expansive passing. However, I think that Lampard is wrong to allow him to move so high up the pitch because it often means that the defence are left completely exposed after a turnover. This isn’t, for me, Jorginho’s fault and it is instead more tactical naivety shown from Lampard himself. To solve this issue, we must use the tried and trusted 4-3-3 as the main formation and instruct Jorginho to stay deep and hold, how he did previously under Maurizio Sarri. This could then allow him the extra freedom to not just follow strict instructions and pass with more freedom.
The second reason is the lack of N’Golo Kanté. Kanté is one of the best defensive-minded midfielders in the world today – arguably the best – and when defending in the transition, he is superb. Once Kante is back to full fitness his ability to track down opposition runners, win practically every 50-50, make interceptions and just generally break up the play will be invaluable to us defending when we lose the ball. Against Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup, the Frenchman was simply breathtaking, playing possibly his best game in a Chelsea shirt since joining the club. Hopefully, the arrival of the international break will give him time to recover fully and be back to his very best.
THE RIGHT-BACK POSITION
This time last year we had defensive problems at left-back, but the scintillating form of Emerson so far this season has meant that the left hand side has been pretty solid so far. However, the right-hand side has been the complete opposite. Club captain César Azpilicueta has endured a torrid time in the position (the case could be since last season in fact) and despute showing flashes of promise, generally he has really struggled both ways. Defensively his one-on-one ability seems to have pretty much disappeared and he doesn’t have the mobility to make up for this.
It can be argued that ‘Dave’ should probably have more protection from the right-winger. However, it really has been his form which has seriously cost us goals this season. I think the solution is obvious.
We all know who Reece James is by now and it is no secret why Lampard keeps name dropping him at every opportunity, he is a phenomenal player and although inexperienced, he plays a mature game and I have no doubt that he will improve us massively from both a defensive and an attacking perspective. He will offer us a lot more physicality, already very good at one-on-one situations and with an abundance of pace too, he really is a player to get excited about.
You will notice that I haven’t included the return of Antonio Rüdiger in this article and that’s simply because in my opinion, he’s not in our best defensive partnership. Andreas Christensen this season has been sharp and a long run of games will do wonders for him as a player. And next to him, Kurt Zouma is really improving after his nervy game at Old Trafford on the opening day of the season. I think that they complement each other nicely as a pairing and can grow together to form a very solid partnership at the heart of our defence.
James – Zouma – Christensen – Emerson as the ‘back four’ for the rest of the season? Let’s see how that works…